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Old 07-27-10, 07:36 AM   #1
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Ryder Hesjedal's success in terms of racing tactics and team dynamics?

Canadians understand ice hockey intuitively. But most have no clue how stage bike racing works or what the appeal is of watch a bunch of guys on bikes for 6 hours for 20 days. To most it seems to just be "doesn't the rider who pedals hardest longest win?"

For years I've been trying to find an understandable way to explaining bike racing rules, tactics and strategy to non-Tour followers.

I am thinking that the surprise success of virtual unknown Ryder Hesjedal in this year's Tour ( 7th overall). might be the vehicle I need. All of Canada is agog over his success and a stage by stage analysis of the Hesjedal's race might make stage racing more comprehensible.

Undoubtedly Hesjedal is an extraordinarily talented rider.
But there must be many other talent riders who finished a hundred positions behind Hesjedal. Michael Barry for instance, a fellow Canadian, wound up 99th.

And I am trying to understand what besides skill and talent allows one rider to finish top 10 and another probably equal rider to finish 100 places back. I am thinking of using Hesjedal's experience in this Tour to explain the importance of team tactics, race dynamics, and even luck in determining success.

For instance, the fact that Garmin leader VandeVelde had to abandon in stage 3 (and later, Tyler Farrar) presumably meant that Hesjedal no longer had to ride at Vendevelde's service (as presumably Sky's Michael Barry had to do.) Hesjedal could grab his chances and follow breaks without worrying about letting down his team.

But I wasn't able to follow every stage this year.
What other significant moments were there that might have partially explained Hesjedals success and would explain race protocol or tactics?
Were there "Being in the right place at the right time" moments that pushed him up the GC?

Peter
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Old 07-27-10, 07:39 AM   #2
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The first thing that comes to mind is that the designated rider for each team has several other team members ensuring they conserve energy by drafting as much as possible, so that they can expend their efforts later on in stages, or on stages where time gaps are typically opened up.
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Old 07-27-10, 08:28 AM   #3
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and so to frame Hesjedal's success in general race dynamics, it would be worth pointing out to a novice Tour watcher that the support riders are obliged to provide protection for their leader (as long as they are not completely spent)?
so, in Hesjedal's case, the fact that he no longer had a leader to shelter meant that he could bury himself in the middle of the pack with impunity, and so save energy?
also, if Vandevelde had still been in the race Hesjedal would have had far less liberty to join a breakaway if an opportune moment presented itself.
And even if you don't win the stage, just being present in a successful breakaway assures a high place that day and likely a move up the GC?
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Old 07-27-10, 09:02 AM   #4
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and so to frame Hesjedal's success in general race dynamics, it would be worth pointing out to a novice Tour watcher that the support riders are obliged to provide protection for their leader (as long as they are not completely spent)?
so, in Hesjedal's case, the fact that he no longer had a leader to shelter meant that he could bury himself in the middle of the pack with impunity, and so save energy?
also, if Vandevelde had still been in the race Hesjedal would have had far less liberty to join a breakaway if an opportune moment presented itself.
And even if you don't win the stage, just being present in a successful breakaway assures a high place that day and likely a move up the GC?
I concur with all but the final sentence as being reasonable paraphrases of successful tactics for a high GC finish.

Breakaways (especially ones early in a stage) containing highly placed riders are very rarely allowed to get away. If one has slipped down the GC significantly, it is a way to regain some of the ground that has been lost, but this is not a strategy that is employed by the top GC riders. The winning strategy tends to be - gain time where you can on Time Trials and at the end of stages, and limit losses when you're not at the front of the race.
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Old 07-27-10, 09:08 AM   #5
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Part of the problem is that stage racing is actually fairly complicated, compared to most sports. "Net" sports like hockey, soccer, and basketball have a few quirky rules and sophisticated strategies, but even a novice can generally follow the action. Some sports like baseball and American football are harder to explain. I still can't make heads or tails of cricket.

Unfortunately, it seems to me with stage races the best you can do is explain the general principles. After that, it seems like you have to follow the sport and pick it up as it goes along.

I didn't take much note of Hesjedal this year -- he seems like another in a long line of Garmin's semi-talented GC riders, who do fairly well but don't podium. Might not be the best example, since I don't recall him doing anything particularly remarkable.
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Old 07-27-10, 09:11 AM   #6
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Hesjedal has always had the potential for success. He's always been a strong rider, but was playing his role as a domestique like so many others in the Peleton. His success this year was a result of him being the only potential for GC for the team because of CVV's injury, as well as his training and skill. Now, you have to remember his breakaway on Stage 3, without that he likely would have been in the Peleton which was a couple minutes back. However, I think he probably should not have attacked on the stage to Mende on that steep section, where he lost a good bit of time. But either way, that success in Stage 3 gave him a bit of motivation. And for riders that don't usually get a chance, if they get a little motivation from a stage combined with realizing this may be their only shot they can do extremely well. Remember cycling at this level is almost as much mental as it is physical. If you feel like you are in great form, and know you can do it, you can push that much extra pain away in order to get a good time in the end.
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Old 07-27-10, 09:21 AM   #7
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If you're going to try to explain it to Canadians, working in a hockey analogy is a good start, but eventually you'll need to relate it to donuts somehow.

So let's say the Tour is a box of a dozen from Timmies. Contador is a cruller and Schleck is a honey glazed, right? That would make Hesjedal, let's see...a dutchie. The domestiques would be timbits in a separate pack.

Can anyone take the analogy any further?
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Old 07-27-10, 10:05 AM   #8
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If you're going to try to explain it to Canadians, working in a hockey analogy is a good start, but eventually you'll need to relate it to donuts somehow.

So let's say the Tour is a box of a dozen from Timmies. Contador is a cruller and Schleck is a honey glazed, right? That would make Hesjedal, let's see...a dutchie. The domestiques would be timbits in a separate pack.

Can anyone take the analogy any further?
I don't know. I think comparing the team leaders to the final stones in curling might be better.
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Old 07-27-10, 10:32 AM   #9
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What about beavers? Is the peleton like beavers?
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Old 07-27-10, 10:39 AM   #10
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What about beavers? Is the peleton like beavers?
More like a herd of moose.
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Old 07-27-10, 12:44 PM   #11
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I just have to say that this thread delivers
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Old 07-27-10, 01:41 PM   #12
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Hesjedal has always had the potential for success. He's always been a strong rider, but was playing his role as a domestique like so many others in the Peleton. His success this year was a result of him being the only potential for GC for the team because of CVV's injury, as well as his training and skill. Now, you have to remember his breakaway on Stage 3, without that he likely would have been in the Peleton which was a couple minutes back. However, I think he probably should not have attacked on the stage to Mende on that steep section, where he lost a good bit of time. But either way, that success in Stage 3 gave him a bit of motivation. And for riders that don't usually get a chance, if they get a little motivation from a stage combined with realizing this may be their only shot they can do extremely well. Remember cycling at this level is almost as much mental as it is physical. If you feel like you are in great form, and know you can do it, you can push that much extra pain away in order to get a good time in the end.
That stage may have been the platform to get him talked about, if not right away after a few more riders lost time in the early climbs.

A couple of minutes could also make the difference between a good shot at a top 10 finish (something good for a yuong rider) and a minimal shot. Once a top 10 is on hte table he would have been more inclined to do all the things to get it. On those tough mountian stages where without a top 10 possibility he would have dialed it back a notch (still hardly taking it easy) he would have worked all the way to the finish.

Just trying to bet every second can make a difference of several minutes by the end of a Tour. Those outside the top 10 or so rarely try for time on every stage.
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Old 07-27-10, 06:42 PM   #13
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I'm going to be honest, the only riders I knew from Garmin-Transitions were CVV, Farrar, Dave Z, David Millar and Julian Dean. When Ryder broke out and kept it going on the stage 3 breakaway, I thought it was a total fluke because I never heard of him before. Then i saw him climb in the GC ranks and i realized that this guy has something in him.

Not to mention, the team has a cool shirt for Ryder...



http://www.shopslipstreamsports.com/...campaign=Jul14
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Old 07-27-10, 08:35 PM   #14
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Were there any specific stages anyone can cite during which the stage's circumstances impacted Hesjedal's overall GC standing? (Like "on Stage X he was able to join a breakaway that held on to manage a Y minute gap and so he jumped Z positions.")
I should have thought of this project earlier and followed his day-to-day circumstances, but I was away and so could only get limited recaps. I am not sure that I will now be able analyze his hour-by-hour performance during each stage to try to make forensic reconstruction of his situation and what it says (if anything) about stage racing in general.

And Hesjedal might not even be the best subject or person to focus on. Contador and Schleck are not interesting because they played their roles and fulfilled expectations. were there any other top 10 surprises more interesting than Hesjedal?
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Old 07-27-10, 08:45 PM   #15
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The easiest way to explain stage racing to people is the word "consistency"
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Old 07-27-10, 08:53 PM   #16
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Were there any specific stages anyone can cite during which the stage's circumstances impacted Hesjedal's overall GC standing? (Like "on Stage X he was able to join a breakaway that held on to manage a Y minute gap and so he jumped Z positions.")
I should have thought of this project earlier and followed his day-to-day circumstances, but I was away and so could only get limited recaps. I am not sure that I will now be able analyze his hour-by-hour performance during each stage to try to make forensic reconstruction of his situation and what it says (if anything) about stage racing in general.

And Hesjedal might not even be the best subject or person to focus on. Contador and Schleck are not interesting because they played their roles and fulfilled expectations. were there any other top 10 surprises more interesting than Hesjedal?
1. Lance blowing like he did.
2. the chain pop of Andy Schleck. - To me, it felt like watching a soap opera.
3. The determination of Andy Schleck vs. Alberto Contador during the Pyrenees.
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